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News Article

BHP Molds Mexico’s First Deepwater Development with Trion

By Cas Biekmann | Wed, 07/14/2021 - 18:21

The Trion project, discovered by PEMEX in the deepwaters of the Gulf of Mexico in 2012, is considered one of the most exciting prospects in the Mexican oil and gas sector. Stephan Drouaud, Director of the Trion project at BHP, outlined the project’s history and progress in Mexico Oil and Gas Summit 2021.

BHP might be mostly known for its global mining experience, but its oil and gas arm displays its excellent capabilities of its own. More than just being a technological powerhouse, the company is keen to show how its projects can add value anywhere. “Integrity, respect and outstanding performance are crucial for the company. We are also fully committed to environmental safety, decarbonization and social values. We want to leave a positive legacy and support communities,” said Drouaud.  

With the Trion field, BHP hopes to display all these values. The company is the operator and has a 60 percent operating interest, the other partner is Mexico’s NOC PEMEX with it a 40 percent share. "PEMEX's original discovery of the field meant that we had a lot of available data to work with when we first became involved in Trion," Drouaud further explained.  

The field is quite unique,” Drouaud said. The Trion's field remote location makes it a quite exceptional and challenging project, with a unique scale and magnitude that we find very exciting," he continued. Trion is located 180 km off the Mexican coastline, 30 km from the south of the US and Mexico’s maritime border. Ninety-four percent of the field is oil, the project’s most valuable resource. With no nearby infrastructure, BHP faces an interesting challenge in their field development plan concept. "We have now defined the development concept as one that calls for a subsea field connected to a semi-submersible Floating Production Unit,” said Drouaud, adding that “the reservoir requires pressure support from day one so that the oil does not become gas too early.”

Drouaud predicts that the field could produce 100,000 b/pd, increasing up to 120,000 or even 130,000 eventually. Most of the gas produced will be re-injected. “We were struggling to find a location to exporting the gas,” he said. Luckily, the field can use this resource itself. "The need for water and gas injection has driven an important number of our design and engineering decisions in the development of Trion.”

Trion is showing good progress in its study phase, with CNH approval already expected in 2022 and a likely successful second investment decision coming soon. Various milestones such as finalizing the field development plan and tendering important scopes of the project will be completed in 2021. BHP is ambitious: “Our goal is to think big and make history by delivering the first deepwater development in Mexico,” explained Drouaud. On the current timeline, the company hopes to reach first production in late 2025 or early 2026. Developing the field is estimated to cost between US$7 and 10 billion, but the partners are trying to narrow this range. “I hate to say it, but 80 percent of these projects do not deliver on budget and on schedule,” he said. Drouaud has asked for more time to do everything the right way in his mission to ensure Trion will be a landmark success.

Another key part of the development is the Floating Production Unit (FPU) contract, for which BHP decided to work with McDermott. “This drives pretty much the whole project, so it was incredibly important,” Drouaud said. The core foundation of the project success lies within the power of collaboration, however. Drouaud lauds its successful cooperation with PEMEX, which he says has been built on “trust and respect”. Aligning business and project objectives early on and developing relationships on all levels in their respective organizations helped build a bond. “Treat your partner the way you want to be treated,” he stated.

A transfer of technology and knowledge further strengthens the partnerships. BHP said it benefits greatly from PEMEX’s knowledge and capabilities, so it wanted to transfer its technology and know-how regarding deepwater developments to PEMEX and academia as well. “It is not an obligation, but a commitment because it is something we really wanted to do. In a way, it underpins our success,” said Drouaud. Developing the capabilities of Mexico’s oil and gas sector as well as supporting university research are dedications BHP is proud of. "We believe that we are a proven operator in the Gulf of Mexico, so we can provide a lot of expertise in the training of Mexican talent.”

With a solid social program on its shoulders, BHP aims to use donations to build goodwill with Mexican communities and establish a great relationship early on. Its efforts include poverty relief, training, health care services and laptop donations, among others.  “We are entirely committed and excited for the bright future ahead of us,” Drouaud decided.

Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst